Teacher talking time in your English language classroom

Teacher talking time is often forgotten. Teacher talking time is particularly relevant when teaching English to foreigners because  it stops your students from talking. Teacher talking time can de-motivate and confuse your students if it is not properly used.

Controlled teacher talking time is important for keeping your students focussed and motivated.

Teacher talking time, control it to keep your students focussed

Teacher talking time – engage your students or lose them (source: Why Attention is the New Currency Online by Design Damage)

Teacher talking time, control it to keep your students awake

Teacher talking time, control it to keep your students awake

If what you are saying is not engaging your students, there is a good chance that you will lose most of your students’ attention after 10 seconds. The graph shows results for content engagement. Getting people’s attention follows the same mechanics whether the content is on YouTube or delivered by a teacher in a classroom. The content has to be understandable, interesting and relevant.

Make sure that your teacher talking time follows the following guidelines.

Keep teacher talking time language simple and brief

Look at this example of what not to do during teacher talking time.

What the teachers says

“Now let’s see Peter, if you have finished, why don’t you talk with Mary here about what you discussed earlier after I had told you the story and then you can both write a story together based on my story’s original title.

What the student hears

“Blah blah blah Peter, blah blah blah blah blah Mary blah blah blah you blah blah blah blah …. lots more blahs title.

Teacher talking time Language Dos

  • DO use simple and clear language when giving instructions and explanations.
  • DO use simple imperatives (stand up, write, close, open) followed by please if you want to be polite.
  • DO use clear gestures, mime and visuals whenever possible to clarify your points.
  • DO check your students’ understanding often.
  • DO make it brief.
  • DO rehearse and time some of what you will say before you teach.

If what you want to explain or present takes a long time, you are trying to do too much. Split things up into smaller chunks that your students can understand.

Teacher talking time language Do nots

  • DO NOT begin instructions with “If . . . “
  • DO NOT use modals (e.g. might, would, etc.)
  • DO NOT use conditionals (“If you could open your books now.”)
  • DO NOT use phrasal verbs (“Let us see what we have come to.”)
  • DO NOT use complex relative clauses (“For those of you who have finished early, can you please work with your partners now.”)
  • DO NOT use slang, complicated words or unexplained acronyms (“Let’s check out this article about the inception of LBOs.”)
  • DO NOT stack questions (Who is going to the circus? Who is he going with? Where is the circus and how much is a ticket?)
  • DO NOT echo student questions or answers.
  • DO NOT give long task introductions.

Teacher Talking Time (TTT) versus Student Talking Time (STT)

  • Teacher Talking Time should be short, precise, concise, simple to understand and kept to a minimum.
  • Student Talking Time is a priority. The amount of STT during the class should be kept it as high as possible.

Teacher talking time follows the KISS principle – Keep It Short and Simple.

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